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Posted at 12:41 AM ET, 01/26/2011

A difficult day for commuting

By Washington Post Editors

A wet morning commute across the Washington region may be the most pleasant part of Wednesday for drivers, transit riders, cyclists and other travelers.

Precipitation is moving into the area overnight, and what you will see as you head out in the morning will depend on where you live.

The Post's Capital Weather Gang says light snow and mixed precipitation will develop from southwest areas of the region to the northeast between 5 and 9 a.m., with possible accumulations of one inch. Light snow and other frozen precipitation may cause minor problems in the morning, with slick conditions possible in areas that haven't been treated, especially in counties to the north and west.

However, that's the prelude to the big event that's expected to start Wednesday afternoon and intensify into the overnight hours. The Capital Weather Gang says the ride home Wednesday is likely to be very difficult for commuters, with significant amounts of snow falling between 5 and 10 p.m.

The snow is also expected to be heavy and wet, which means there is the possibility that the weight may down tree limbs and utility lines, wreaking havoc on travel and sending debris into roadways.

Power utilities, such as Pepco and BGE, announced that they were preparing for the possibility of outages caused by the snow and winds gusting up to 35 mph. The utilities said extra personnel were standing by.

Transit agencies are planning to offer normal service in the morning but as conditions worsen throughout the day the levels of service offered may be curtailed. Buses are likely to see impacts before the rail agencies, but if snow gets deep enough it may affect the ability of Metrorail to operate trains above ground. Ice and snow can also cause problems for rail equipment, such as switches and signals, which could affect services such as the MARC and VRE commuter rail lines and even Amtrak train service.

As problematic as Wednesday's commute will be, the big question mark is Thursday morning. Significant amounts of snow could shut down the Thursday morning commute. Of course, enough snow will shut down Washington, which could mean many people won't have to be anywhere Thursday morning.

Let us and your fellow travelers know how the weather affects your commute. Post a comment below.

By Washington Post Editors  | January 26, 2011; 12:41 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Driving, Metro, MetroAccess, Metrobus, Weather  
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